The City Council Tuesday night heard from residents on the proposed new city parking meters and rates, with some questioning a provision that puts setting the rates with the mayor or his designee.
Others wanted to ensure that they would still be able to easily park downtown with the new system, including outside the post office.
Meanwhile, Mayor Gary McCarthy said that the new parking rates have not been set under the proposal, but that putting the rates with the mayor or his designee allows for more flexibility.
City resident David Giacalone was one of those who questioned taking authority for parking meter rates away from the council and giving it to the mayor.
Giacalone said the council sets rates on a variety of city functions. Parking meter rates should be one of them.
“That’s your responsibility,” Giacalone told the council. “You should be making those choices and taking the heat.”
The council is considering a proposal to replace old-style parking meters in the city with electronic kiosks. The proposal is to buy 20 parking meter kiosks for $130,000, and spend $12,000 a year to operate them. Each meter is to cover 10 to 15 current spaces.
Along with the new meters is a proposal to allow the mayor to control hourly rates at the new meters.
The proposal would eliminate existing parking rates, which were set by a current city ordinance to be either 50 cents or $1 per hour, and allow for flexibility based on location and date.
McCarthy has said the new system will take advantage of features of the new meters, allowing for varied rates depending on events, suggesting the possibility of offering free parking for a holiday shopping day or increasing the fee for big events downtown.
Most of the year, though, parking spots that are less used would likely have lower rates and parking spots in high demand would likely cost more if the amended ordinance is approved.
The new meters would require drivers to buy a certain amount of time, which can be purchased with cash or a credit card, and provide a receipt that is to be displayed on the dashboard.
“With these new pay stations, we will have a lot more empirical data and be able to better manage the parking resources,” McCarthy said at the meeting.
Keeping the rate decisions with the council would slow that process and not allow for that flexibility, McCarthy said.
Joe Kelleher, who is running for City Council, also questioned putting the power to set parking rates with the mayor.
He said the council should be involved in setting the rates.
“One person should not make that decision,” Kelleher said.
Council member Carl Erikson said the new meters provide the important feature of being able to use a credit card to pay for parking. That, he said, allows those from out of town to pay without having to dig for change.
Erikson suggested having the council set a maximum fee, with the mayor having the ability to lower it.
“That way the council can still control the top level of fee,” Erikson said.
Erikson said that was something the committee could discuss next week.